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The sweetest and juiciest peach you’ll ever taste can be picked from your own tree. When harvested at the peak of ripeness, backyard peaches are loaded with the sweet gifts of nature with no concern about shelf-stability or long transports. There are many easy-to-grow peach varieties. Grow your own with these simple tips.
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Peach trees bear in 2-3 years after planting. Fruits ripen in midsummer to mid-fall, depending on the cultivar and zone. Pick peaches when all green coloration is gone. Ripe fruits easily come off the tree with a slight upward twist, but handle them gently because they bruise easily. Store ripe fruits in the refrigerator for a few days.
Location, Location, Location
The best way to ensure a bountiful future harvest is to plan before you plant. Begin by selecting a planting site. Peaches grow best in full sun and well-drained, fertile soil. The planting site should receive at least eight hours of direct sunlight a day. Light is essential to fruit-set.
Good soil drainage is also necessary. The best soil for growing peaches is loose and crumbles easily. It is often dark brown or black in color, indicating it has plenty of organic matter. If the soil in your selected planting site doesn't measure up, select a different site.
Peach Tree Care Must-Knows
Plant container-grown peach trees anytime the ground is workable. Situate the plant in the ground so the top of the root ball is level with the surrounding grade. Water the newly planted tree generously, and continue watering weekly during the first growing season. Apply a 2- to 3-inch-thick layer of mulch over the root zone to help conserve soil moisture.
Peach trees are most productive when pruned annually. Prune trees in late winter. Trim away any damaged or rubbing branches. Prune branches back to an outward-facing bud to stimulate new growth. Prune back exceedingly fast-growing shoots and branches that lend the tree an odd shape. Each year, cut out a portion of the older fruiting wood to rejuvenate the tree. Pruning takes a bit of time in late winter but pays great dividends with increased fruit production in summer.
Peach trees have a tendency to produce more fruit than can ripen during the season. Much of this fruit is naturally thinned, or shed, by the tree. This natural thinning doesn't always happen, which stresses the tree and decreases production due to the large fruit load. Home gardeners can easily thin peach trees by hand. About 20 to 40 days after full bloom, thin peaches so the remaining fruit is spaced 6 to 8 inches apart on each branch.
There are many varieties of peach trees on the market. If your local nursery doesn't have a variety that appeals to you, search online retailers. From hardy 'Canadian Harmony' to oddly shaped 'Donut', peaches are available in a range of sizes and hardiness ratings. Most peach trees are self-pollinating, which means you only need to plant one peach tree to get fruit. Three great self-pollinating peach trees are 'Contender,' 'Redhaven,' and 'Reliance'.